On May 23 many of the seminarians of the Diocese of Camden, along with Fathers Michael Romano, vocations director, and Adam Cichoski, departed for a three week pilgrimage to work in Lourdes, France, and walk a part of the Camino de Santiago. Below are selections from their reflections.
June 11, 1:28 p.m.
A lot of us had been enduring some pains and soreness. During this rest time, I reflected upon why it was that, last year, I was able to walk the Camino in 35 days, but this year I could barely walk three days in a row. What kept hitting me over the head was that last year, for those 35 days that I walked, I did it with God. This time, however, my pride came into the picture. Since I knew that I was going to be doing the Camino again, and that it was certainly not going to be a 35-day walk but only a five-day walk with a rest day, I said in my head that this walk was going to be easy.
I feel as though God gave me some pains so as to humble me, to make me realize that I must rely on him if I am to do anything in this world. Sometimes trials, pains, tribulations and even desolations are given to us, not so that we curse God, but that we learn to cry out to him in our times of need. And I think God hopes that we learn from these experiences to cry out to him even in good times, for everything is a gift, given to us by God.
June 13, 1:12 p.m.
Today near the beginning of our walk, a brother seminarian and I pulled off the trail to check out a chapel on the side of the road and to get one of the “stamps” to eventually get our pilgrimage certificate. As I was waiting in line to get my stamp, I noticed that he was waiting for me.
On the camino, waiting usually isn’t expected. I suppose there’s all kinds of reasons for that (we need breaks at different times, it’s physically challenging and helps to keep momentum, and it also frees you for silence or other encounters, or i.e. gives you a break from each other on a very long walk.)
When I saw that my brother was waiting for me, I appreciated the gesture. And it led to a nice and prayerful time together. Later on, I did something similar and the brothers told me they too appreciated it.
There is another kind of waiting that takes place on the camino. One brother describes this as an “active waiting.”
He described it like this: On the camino, we don’t see the destination off in the distance. Often we don’t know exactly how far we have to go. Nor what our stopping point looks like. But we don’t sit and wait until we have all the information. Instead, we walk while “waiting” with an attitude of trust — trust that we will be led to our destination.
Also, we will encounter others who may need us (maybe physically, maybe to talk, etc) and as we are interacting with them, it can be easy to think, “When am I going to get what God has in store for me?” But the same applies — we serve while trusting that God is leading us to our desires.
To illustrate, on the second day, this brother was walking fast and just trying to get the walk done. After a rest stop, he came upon a family speaking English. They spoke for awhile; it slowed and calmed him. As he was leaving them, he heard the couple talk about praying a rosary. He turned back and said he would pray with them; it slowed and calmed him again.
I have enjoyed running into my brother seminarians along the way and learning things about them that I otherwise might not and getting to share similarly with them. One memorably came about because a brother had stopped to clear a stone from his shoe. The ensuing talk was good for us on several levels, including helping us both to forget about the 20 miles we were in the middle of!
“Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way.” (antiphon from Liturgy of the Hours today)
June 14, 4:11 a.m.
After three full weeks of service, walking and fraternity, we have found ourselves at the end of our Lourdes/ Camino pilgrimage.
What a beautiful experience it has been to take part on this journey together and share the many graces that have come our way.
Today, we embarked on an excursion through the historical section of Santiago de Compostela. It is here that we all learned about the ancient history of this incredible city, which ended at the remarkable cathedral from the early 12th century. All of us attended the pilgrims Mass together, where we brought our final intentions to tomb of Saint James.
On behalf of all the seminarians I would like to thank everyone for their prayers over these past three weeks. Please know that all of the faithful in the Diocese of Camden have been in our prayers daily. Also, a huge word of gratitude goes to Bishop Sullivan not only allowing this remarkable pilgrimage to happen, but also for the great example he is for all of the seminarians.
It has been a great blessing to have Father Romano and Father Cichoski on this pilgrimage with us; they both have both showed us what it means to be servant leaders. Never being afraid to roll up their sleeves to work and walk alongside of us. Personally, a word of gratitude for my brothers on this pilgrimage. Thank you for your yes to God — to follow him and to discern his will in your life. Each of you has been a great inspiration to me — if it was working alongside with you in Lourdes or walking along side throughout the Camino. These three full weeks have showed us what it means to be Brother Seminarians and hopefully one day Brother Priests.
Sisters and Brothers — please do not be afraid to walk up to one of the seminarians and ask about our favorite experience during this pilgrimage, I am sure it would not be hard for us to answer.